William J. Broad, New York Times:
In 2000, the Broward County Public Schools in Florida received an alarming report. Like many affluent school districts at the time, Broward was considering laptops and wireless networks for its classrooms and 250,000 students. Were there any health risks to worry about?
The district asked Bill P. Curry, a consultant and physicist, to study the matter. The technology, he reported back, was “likely to be a serious health hazard.” He summarized his most troubling evidence in a large graph labeled “Microwave Absorption in Brain Tissue (Grey Matter).”
The chart showed the dose of radiation received by the brain as rising from left to right, with the increasing frequency of the wireless signal. The slope was gentle at first, but when the line reached the wireless frequencies associated with computer networking, it shot straight up, indicating a dangerous level of exposure.
Except that Dr. Curry and his graph got it wrong.
According to experts on the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation, radio waves become safer at higher frequencies, not more dangerous. (Extremely high-frequency energies, such as X-rays, behave differently and do pose a health risk.)
This is a great piece about how poorly-conducted research robbed of context can badly skew understanding for decades to come. I still think that Broad muddies his decent science reporting by ascribing too much weight to weak Russian propaganda efforts, though. There’s plenty of clear-headed reporting here that sufficiently debunks the meritless claims of a few.